By the eighteenth century, infants and invalids were often fed easily digestible foods kept warm in a veilleuse (veiller means ‘to watch over’ or ‘stay awake’ in French), which could be brought to the bedside. The food was placed inside a lidded bowl that slotted into the top of a hollow cylindrical base unit, with an opening at the bottom for a small oil lamp, designed to heat the bowl’s underside and keep its contents warm.
This example is made in imitation of Chinese porcelain; the protective mask over the opening is designed to keep evil spirits away from the food and its intended recipient.
Lowestoft Porcelain Factory, Suffolk, England, c.1765 – 70
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery (Norfolk Museums Service; NWHCM: 1930.125)